- A recent NWEA study finds promising evidence that a new reading fluency intervention could help improve the literacy skills of middle schoolers who are from historically marginalized communities or live in poverty.
- Sixth graders who scored below the 50th percentile on the Capti Assess Reading Efficiency test showed a notable increase in their test scores after using the reading fluency protocol, NWEA found in a small sampling of Georgia students.
- The reading fluency protocol studied uses Repeated Reading, a practice that encourages a student to read the same passage aloud at least three times with a teacher or until the student reads the section correctly. If a student misreads a word or pauses for more than 5 seconds, the teacher properly reads the word aloud followed by the student’s correct pronunciation. The new protocol also includes language strategies, culturally relevant texts and personal goal setting.
The study comes at a time when educators are struggling to return student achievement in reading and math to pre-pandemic levels. NWEA’s research on the protocol was funded by the Reading Reimagined program of the Advanced Education Research and Development Fund, a nonprofit program that focuses on research to increase reading fluency and comprehension for all students, particularly those from marginalized communities.
Test score data from the Nation’s Report Card released earlier this year found reading scores among 13-year-olds declined by 4 points since the start of COVID-19 and by 7 points compared to 2012.
A separate NWEA analysis from July estimated the average student will need 4.1 additional months of reading instruction to rebound to pre-pandemic levels. That same report also found marginalized students continued to be the furthest from academic recovery.
Though the NWEA reading fluency study says its small sample size — just 72 students at Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools — limits the ability to draw significant conclusions, researchers said it does reveal hopeful signs that this new fluency reading protocol implemented during the 2022-23 school year could be a useful tool for catching up the most vulnerable students.
In fact, the NWEA study found an increase in the mean scores of 6th graders who scored below the 50th percentile between the pretest and posttest — rising from 227.22 points to 236.04 points. NWEA added that the strategy is easy for all secondary teachers to implement, because it does not require any training in reading pedagogy and any subject matter can be used for the texts.
Secondary students can also benefit from literacy tools often used by younger students. For instance, reading experts suggest exploring interventions that use word banks, annotation, or definition cards for students across any subject or grade level. As “the science of reading” continues to gain traction in schools, educators are also stressing the importance of teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension as core literacy skills.
With the variety of literacy strategies available, some educators are steering away from a one-size-fits-all view on reading instruction. Instead, they are leaning more toward multiple approaches for teaching reading sprinkled through lesson plans, as not all students learn the same way.
No matter the literacy approach, experts have stressed the need for strong teacher preparation and professional development. When it comes to the science of reading, the National Council on Teacher Quality found in a June analysis of nearly 700 teacher prep programs that only 25% adequately teach all five components of the evidence-based reading lessons: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.